Nosferatu, the walking undead, wurdulac, der vampyr—whatever you would like to call them, there’s no denying that vampires are a main staple in folkloric legends across the globe. Largely rooted in Eastern European fables, the vampire has become a universally known creature practically synonymous with horror.
Like its contemporary creatures of the night, the werewolf and the zombie, vampires have been depicted across a wide array of media forms, from novels to comic books to video games and, of course, hundreds of movies featuring the fearsome bloodsuckers in action.
As Halloween approaches, it's high time to start watching some of the more noteworthy horror movies currently streaming. As vampires are one of the hallmarks of the horror genre, dating back nearly to Dracula‘s publication itself, we thought we'd put together a list of the greatest vampire movies that we recommend watching.
Much like the vampire legend itself, these movies are told across numerous decades and from various countries, offering vastly different interpretations of the legendary creatures. Some are funny, some are terrifying, but no matter what, these are movies you’ll definitely want to sink your teeth into.
Best Vampire Movies and Where to Stream Them
List Criteria: When researching movies that might appear on this list, we tallied up the adaptations of Bram Stoker's most famous vampire story in existence, Dracula, and found so many adaptations of the original novel, a separate list could be made ranking them all. To prevent this list from basically becoming a definitive ranking of every Dracula movie, we opted to pick just one movie featuring the iconic Transylvanian Count. Also, apologies to hardcore Twilight fans, but no, we didn't include any entries from the Twilight franchise on this list.
What We Do in the Shadows
Not to be confused with the equally great hit show of the same name on FX (this film served as the basis for the show), Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi's wildly original and ceaselessly entertaining What We Do in the Shadows might not just be one of the funniest vampire movies ever released, but also one of the funniest movies in general. (It's certainly one of the best and most unique comedies to be released within the past 10 years.)
Adopting a mockumentary-style approach, What We Do in the Shadows follows a group of vampires—each one deliberately modeled after famous vampires, with stand-ins inspired by The Lost Boys, Nosferatu, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, and Twilight—living in the suburbs of Wellington, New Zealand.
While the movie pokes fun and includes depictions of the many notably horrifying aspects vampires traditionally possess (turning into bats, not being able to go out in the sun, feeding on blood, etc.), What We Do in the Shadows also depicts the more mundane elements of everyday life, such as the four vampires trying to make their rent, score dates, and divvying up who's going to do what chore via the dreaded chore wheel.
It's a hilarious approach to take on the vampire mythology, and includes a wonderfully talented cast of actors, including Clement, Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, and a delightful Rhys Darby as the leader of a pack of polite werewolves. After watching this, you'll find yourself thinking back to any number of the film's witty quotes and chuckling to yourself (“We're werewolves, not swearwolves”).
Not currently streaming, but available to rent on Prime Video
Ganja & Hess
There's a lot to unpack when watching Ganja & Hess. In 1973, vampire films were more or less dominated by the Dracula sequels that Hammer Horror was producing, falling into a formulaic story built around the Count's return over and over again. But then Ganja & Hess came along, and turned the entire vampire myth on its head. The film follows the romantic pairing of Ganja (Marlene Clark), a recent widow, and Hess (Duane Jones), an intelligent anthropologist who turns into a vampire after being stabbed by an ancient, cursed dagger of African origin.
In the film that follows, the director, Bill Gunn, uses the vampire myth to parallel various societal issues and debates relevant at the time and still relevant today, including race, guilt, trauma, and religion. A movie truly ahead of its time, Ganja & Hess is likely to be unlike any movie you've ever seen, especially within the vampire subgenre.
Following less of a clear storyline with typical plotlines, the film focuses more on the trauma shared by Ganja and Hess—both of whom have recently lost someone they loved—and the subsequent strange romance and method of coping they develop. It's a touching, odd, audacious film, and one that showed the different boundaries and approaches directors could take in crafting a vampire narrative—it didn't have to just be strictly about scares; it could mean something and have an important message behind it, too.
Streaming on Hulu (premium subscription required)
Guillermo del Toro's first film, Cronos, might just be one of the greatest directorial debuts in all of film. Sure, it may not be as groundbreaking or universally known as Clerks or Reservoir Dogs, but del Toro's originality and penchant for a postmodern, analytical approach to horror was very much evident in this film. Cronos follows an eldery antique dealer (Federico Luppi) who happens upon an odd, scarab-like device dating back to the Spanish Inquisition that's able to grant eternal life.
While the dealer initially benefits from a progressively younger appearance at first, he soon learns the true cost of his newfound youth, becoming a vampire in the process, all the while being chased by a brutish thug (Ron Perlman) who wants the device for himself. Like Ganja & Hess, Cronos takes the traditional vampire story and spins it in a completely new direction, portraying the vampire almost as a drug addict, with a thirst for blood granting him temporary reprieve from severe illness (the dealer begins to show signs of withdrawal when he’s unable to feed).
With this film, del Toro perfectly showed his interests as a director and his penchant for taking traditional horror stories and presenting them in a new light. Of course, del Toro would go on to make a name for himself as one of the best horror directors currently active—and would even go on to direct another, more action-heavy vampire movie in Blade II. Looking back to his earlier films like Cronos, it's easy to see the bright future the director would have ahead of him.
Streaming on HBO Max
Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In is kind of like a romantic, much more adult version of the Disney cult favorite, The Little Vampire. Twelve-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a lonely boy relentlessly bullied at his suburban Stockholm school in the 1980s'.
His life dramatically changes, however, when he meets an odd, reclusive girl seemingly his own age (Lina Leandersson) who turns out to be a kind-hearted vampire whom Oskar slowly grows a romantic affection for. A love story among preteens disguised as a horror movie, Let the Right One In is a very tender movie about accepting the person your heart desires, despite their apparent flaws (sure, Oskar's love interest has a thirst for human blood, but hey, nobody's perfect, right?). It's also a story that shows just how much one can benefit from a single friendship during a hard time in their lives, especially in their adolescence.
Released the same year as the first Twilight movie, which saw a temporary rise in vampire stories' popularity for a short time, this was a vampire love story done right, equally gruesome and disturbing as it was heartfelt and sentimental—thankfully, it also lacked the awkward performances found in each of the Twilight films.
The film's American 2010 remake, Let Me In, is also a more than decent vampire film as well, with some great performances by Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloë Grace Moretz, but the original Swedish film remains hard to beat.
Streaming on Hulu
Only Lovers Left Alive
Indie screen legend Jim Jarmusch has taken on multiple genres in his nearly 40-year-long career, from neo-acid Westerns (Dead Man) to hitman-focused crime films (Ghost Dog) to zombie movies (The Dead Don't Die). In 2013, Jarmusch decided to focus on the subject of vampires for his next project, Only Lovers Left Alive. The film stars Tom Hiddlestone as a depressed vampiric musician who reunites with his centuries-old soul mate (Tilda Swinton), who is able to bring him out of his stupor and reignite his interest in life again.
Unlike most vampire films on this list, Only Lovers Left Alive focuses on a much more existential take on the traditional vampiric legends—a typical exploration in many of Jarmusch’s movies. Only Lovers Left Alive's two vampiric leads don't want to drain everyone of blood or rule the world a la Dracula—as immortal beings, they only want to have an avid interest in life and its various prospects, and remain hopeful that the world will get better (I mean, if you lived through some of the most exciting periods in history, wouldn't you be a little bored if you found yourself in modern-day Detroit?).
In the past, Jarmusch has always worked some elements of philosophy and psychology into his films to analyze human thoughts and emotions, and with Only Lovers Left Alive, he managed to perfectly adapt those themes to the traditional vampire story.
Streaming on The Criterion Channel
Over the years, there's been dozens of adaptations of Bram Stoker's classic horror novel and the definitive vampire story, Dracula. While there have been some excellent translations of the novel onto the Big Screen—with films like Blood for Dracula, Dracula: Pages From a Virgin's Diary, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the Horror of Dracula all certainly worth watching—we opted to choose the original 1931 Universal Horror classic, Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi as everyone's favorite blood-sucking Count. In a more or less faithful adaptation of Stoker's beloved novel, Dracula revolves around a centuries-old Transylvanian vampiric count, Dracula, who relocates to England and begins feeding on the citizens of London.
Admittedly, by today's standards, it's obviously not the scariest movie involving a vampire out there, but Lugosi's most famous performance as the legendary Count remains as iconic a role as any other. There remains a reason his interpretation of the character remains the definitive version of Dracula people think of when they imagine the character.
His charismatic performance—his unwavering gaze, pale skin, signature cape, thick East European accent, and old-world sensibility (he truly looked and felt like he belonged to a bygone era of nobles)—has become so culturally iconic and virtually synonymous with the word “vampire,” it's nearly impossible to think of any other actor who so ingeniously embodied the role (no disrespect to Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman).
Nearly 100 years after the film's release, When you think of the name Bela Lugosi, you can't help but think of Dracula—and similarly, when you hear the name Dracula, you can't help but picture anyone else but Lugosi. That‘s a performance right there.
Streaming on Peacock (premium subscription required)
Obviously, this one is a bit dated—having been released in 1922, it's actually approaching its 100 year anniversary—but still, without a movie like Nosferatu, who knows whether vampire films as we know them today would even exist; every vampire story after it—from Universal's 1931 Dracula, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s antagonist “The Master,” to Salem's Lot—can all be traced back to this FW Murnau silent classic.
Nosferatu acts as a loose, unofficial adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, with several notable differences, including the names of characters (rumored to avoid copy infringement, as Murnau did not have any one's permission to adapt Stoker's story). Following a similar plotline as the original novel, Count Orlock (Max Schreck) is an Eastern European vampire interested in relocating from his Transylvanian castle to a quiet German city, where he begins feeding on many of the city's residents.
While it may not be the most frightening film it once was, it still remains the quintessential horror film, with Schreck's Orlock remaining one of the most iconic vampires in existence, due largely to his distinct physical presence (misshapen bald head, jagged teeth, talon-like fingernails, and pointed ears) and the various interpretations and homages seen in modern cinema over the years (including Klaus Kinski in Nosferatu the Vampyre, and appearances by Orlock-like characters in films like What We Do in the Shadows).
We recommend watching it at least once in your lifetime, and honestly, what better time than Halloween?
Streaming on Pluto TV and Tubi
Throughout the 1980s', audiences' love for vampire films had begun to sour. Perhaps fatigued by the constant adaptations, retellings, and sequels to the Dracula movies of the decades prior (Christopher Lee had played the role a total of 10 times, with each new Dracula sequel getting progressively worse), moviegoers just weren't excited to see another rehash of the same movie over and over again.
In 1985, though, that all changed with the release of Fright Night. A horror film that mixed scares with some hearty laughs, Fright Night combined the classic 1980s' teen movie with a wholly unconventional vampire story. In the film, a horror-obsessed teenager named Charley (William Ragsdale) who learns that his new next-door neighbor (Chris Sarandon), who appears to be a charming, charismatic, friendly guy, is in actuality a vampire targeting the women in his suburban neighborhood. When no one he tells believes him, Charley enlists his friends as well as a campy B-movie actor (played the always wonderful Roddy McDowall) to rid the vampire before he's able to kill anyone else.
Combining characteristics of a Hitchcock/De Palma thriller (a man spying on his neighbor, shades of Rear Window and Sisters), classic '80s teen tropes, and a ton of homages poking fun at earlier horror movies (McDowall's character serves as an amalgamation of various 1950s' horror movie actors—his name, Peter Vincent, being a play on veteran genre actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price), Fright Night helped translate the traditional vampire story over to a modern setting, showing you didn't need a vampire story set in the European mountains or fog-clouded Victorian streets.
The success of the film paved the way for later films like The Lost Boys and Near Dark that similarly took the vampire mythology in a completely new direction and adapted to a more contemporary spin.
Streaming on Prime Video (premium subscription required)
The Lost Boys
After seeing the positive reception and commercial success of 1985's Fright Night, producers opted to follow through with another vampire-inspired project, similarly set in a more modern time period and a locale American audiences would be able to recognize. Set on the beaches and boardwalk of California, The Lost Boys follows two brothers (Jason Patric and Corey Haim) who move to Santa Cruz and encounter a small gang of mysterious punks (led by Kiefer Sutherland) who turn out to be vampires.
About as '80s as a movie can get, full of spiky hairdos, perms, questionable clothing choices, '80s pop songs, The Lost Boys helped firmly reestablish the vampire film to then-current American audiences, while also updating the vampire mythology significantly. Here, we don't see one all-powerful count who wants to enslave the world or feed on everyone's blood. We just see a gang of teens prone to violent, destructive behavior (although they’re definitely not above killing someone), who use their powers for the benefit of having fun and living a dangerous, carefree lifestyle. (It’s basically like Point Break but with vampires instead of a surfing Patrick Swayze.)
Though it could do with a few more serious scenes—it's kind of light on the scares and heavy on the lighthearted comedic relief, with the entire second half basically feeling like The Goonies battling vampires—it's still a largely enjoyable movie worth seeing.
Not currently streaming, but available to rent on Prime Video
Similar to the aforementioned Lost Boys, Near Dark (also released in 1987) offered another fresh take on the traditional vampire story. However, while Fright Night and The Lost Boys were released just before Near Dark, the latter might actually be the best of the “new age” vampire movies that came out of the 1980s'.
We don't know what it is exactly—maybe it's the strong performances, the eerie atmosphere, the midwestern desert setting (which seemed totally out of place yet also a perfectly natural setting for a vampire film), or maybe it's just the general darkness of the movie—but whatever it is, Near Dark is a damn near perfect vampire flick.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow in her solo debut film (she'd previously co-directed The Loveless with Monty Montgomery), Near Dark follows a young man (Adrian Pasdar) from a small town in Oklahoma who joins a group of nomadic vampires traveling by an RV through the US.
While he is initially drawn into their strange lifestyle and even falls in love with one of their group members, the young man soon realizes just how dangerous and violent the group truly is. Most people tend to associate Bigelow with her later successes like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, but few people seem to remember how great her earlier films were, such as Near Dark, Strange Days, and Blue Steel.
Overshadowed by its contemporaries, Fright Night and The Lost Boys, Near Dark is an underrated gem of a movie, full of great acting (Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton, especially, also boast some strong performances), suspenseful action, and an interesting blend between old-fashioned vampiric horror and a distinctly Western setting.
Streaming on Prime Video (premium subscription required)
Vampires are one of the key pillars in all of horror. From decade to decade and culture to culture, vampires remain one of the most easily recognizable creatures of folkloric legend, having been featured in numerous books, comics, TV shows, and movies over the years.
As long as pop culture has existed, so too have vampires. As vampires are a main staple in horror, we strongly recommend watching at least a few vampire movies this Halloween. With this list, we looked at vampire movies that both set the standard for the genre and also redefined it, offering different looks at the nefarious creatures of the night that range from comedic portrayals to arthouse films that explore the complexities of being unable to age or having to feed off blood regularly, giving you a wide variety of options when it comes to the kind of vampire movie you’re interested in viewing.
For additional vampire movie recommendations, we also highly suggest checking out the Netflix comedy horror, Vampires vs. the Bronx, the early George A. Romero film, Martin, the Dracula-inspired comedy horror, The Fearless Vampire Killers, and the extraordinarily unique Shadow of the Vampire (which makes for a great double feature with the original Nosferatu).